Monthly Archives: April 2020

What TCWR Is Doing To Help

Animal Cruelty Awareness Week

April 24, 2020

In the face of the abuse and neglect thousands of exotic cats and bears experience around the country, Turpentine Creek acts as a forever home and place of refuge. Currently home to 88 animal residents, most of which have been victims of the exotic pet trade or entertainment industry, we are constantly working to increase public awareness about the plight of big cats in captivity.  

As a non-profit, TCWR is reliant completely on donations and the revenue brought in from admissions and supporters to cover the cost of operations. We are not open with the purpose of showcasing our animals. With the price of admission, one is able to come into the Refuge to learn about our mission. Exploring our Discovery Area and going on a guided tour are both educational experiences that are geared toward sharing the stories of our animal residents and their rescues. Our team also offers educational experiences for school groups and events onsite and offsite, to increase our outreach to more than just those that come visit the Refuge in person. These opportunities may look different depending on the occasion, but one thing that is always mentioned, are rescue stories.  

By telling these stories, we are able to teach our guests about the abuse and neglect that face so many exotic animals across the country. Our team does not just cover rescues, they also teach about the realities of cub-petting, white tigers, exotic cat hybrids, private ownership laws, and most importantly, how the public can help make a difference for these animals.  

With 41 USDA licensed cub-petting facilities, immeasurable interactive roadside zoos and psuedo-sanctuaries, and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 big cats in captivity across the United States, public awareness of the abuse that accompanies these situations is imperative. It is the vision of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to put an end to the Exotic Pet Trade though public education. By ending the Exotic Pet Trade and ending the use of big cats in the entertainment industry, true sanctuaries like us, would no longer be necessary. That is completely fine with us, it would mean no more animals are in need of rescue.

Animal cruelty of all shapes and sizes is heartbreaking and detrimental. Turpentine Creek works alongside other Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) accredited facilities and animal welfare organizations to put an end to the suffering of exotic animals in captivity. But, most importantly, our mission would not be possible without our supporters and visitors who become advocates for the animals that cannot speak for themselves. Please lend your voice to these animals by reaching out to your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want to end private ownership and animal abuse. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would do this and is just waiting to be voted on. Visit our Advocacy Page today to help us protect them!

Private Ownership

Animal Cruelty Awareness Week

April 22, 2020

Sadie Tiger was privately owned and lived in this dilapidated cage until her rescue.

In the United States, it is often cheaper to buy a tiger or lion cub than it is to purchase a purebred dog. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has rescued numerous animals that were owned as pets, a lion cub purchased for $175 at an animal show in Missouri being one of them. Once the lion became too much to handle, the owners decided that they could no longer care for a pet lion and surrendered it to TCWR in 2007. Since being founded in 1992, TCWR has experienced hundreds of similar owners surrendering their animals to us. Every year, people around the country decide that they want a cute, cuddly exotic animal as a pet. By purchasing these animals, it continues to fuel a multi-billion-dollar industry. The real cost comes at the expense of the exotic cats, whose lives will consist of only living in captivity with owners unfit to care for them.

Private buyers quickly realize that wild animals cannot be tamed by simply hand-raising them. Big cats are apex predators, and will inevitably start to use their teeth and claws as they are meant to. They become too much for their owners and are sold to roadside zoos or euthanized. Big cats, and other large exotic animals, cost over $10,000 per year for food and even more for adequate husbandry and veterinary care. Many animals live their lives with minimal health standards due to this high expense. Obtaining a license for private ownership and exhibiting to the public is regulated by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class C exhibitor’s license. This entails a $10 application fee in many states and paying an annual fee ranging from $30-300 depending on the number of animals owned. While this might seem like a small price, in some states there are no regulations regarding exotic cat private ownership whatsoever. Making identifying private owners and exact numbers incredibly difficult.

Sadie Tiger now enjoying her new spacious habitat at TCWR

When a tiger is owned as a pet, and not being exhibited to the public, a USDA permit is not required. This is regulated by each individual state and does not protect the animal underneath the Animal Welfare Act or any governmental regulations. The USDA Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a set of minimum requirements that apply to “certain warm-blooded animals used for research, exhibition, and commerce.” These requirements are not species specific and apply to ALL warm-blooded animals, from rodents and birds to tigers and elephants, and therefore do little to offer protection to these animals. USDA regulations do have an up-side. They allow for the tracking of dangerous exotic wildlife in the United States. This is because exhibitors, any facility possessing animals and open to the public, and private licensees must provide animal inventories and are subjected to inspections by this governing body. Thanks to these reports and inspections, we are able to know that approximately 96% of the big cats in the United States are in private ownership and roadside zoos, with 4% kept in accredited zoos and sanctuaries.

Izzy was one of 3 tigers privately owned. She was declawed and has needed 4 corrective surgeries since her rescue to fix the botched declaw.

Without licensing, there are no requirements for animal inventories, or inspections of the facility where they are kept. Private owners are also not required to provide any information such as sale or transfer of tigers, birth, death, animal welfare, etc. USDA inventories show that there are 341 licensees with the USDA keeping approximately 1,903 tigers in the US since 2016. That means that the estimated other 5,000 tigers are kept by private owners, with very little regulation by operating outside of federal regulation.

It is time NOW to redirect the publics’ attention to legitimate tiger conservation initiatives, and steer away from their exploitation for entertainment and private ownership.

Add your voice to our Advocacy Page to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. This Federal Bill will BAN all private ownership and cub petting in the entire United States:

Click here and tell your Congress to Protect Big Cats!

Road Side Zoos

Animal Cruelty Awareness Week

April 20, 2020

It is Animal Cruelty Awareness Week and Turpentine Creek wants to raise awareness about the life of exotic felines being held in backyards and roadside zoos.

Roadside zoos exist all over the country with one motive: money. Many are found along busy roads, meant to be a quick stop for tourists. But, they can also be drive-through safaris, traveling zoos, and petting zoos. They usually give an interactive experience, luring people in with the options to feed animals or engage in hands-on interaction. Sometimes, roadside zoos are disguised as “sanctuaries” or “rescues”. These titles create the illusion that these facilities are rescues, and that by partaking in their activities, you are helping the animals. Animals in these facilities are not rescues but bought from notorious breeders or bred by the facilities themselves.

Roadside zoos often employ people with no education or expertise in the care of animals. Because of the lack of knowledge, the living conditions for the animals tend to be horrifying. To conserve money and space, animal enclosures may be built with no thought of the needs of the species. Oftentimes, animals have no escape from the weather. In some cases, the enclosures are not big enough for them to move or even stand to their full height. Some enclosures may experience crowding, causing stress if not managed properly. Enclosures may not be cleaned on a regular schedule, leading to an excess of feces and rotting food. This becomes a breeding ground for insects and bacteria that spread disease.

Exotic felines have very particular, and expensive, dietary and nutritional needs. Because of the large price tag associated with a proper diet, animals in pseudo-facilities are oftentimes malnourished, developing health issues. They may be overfed, underfed, or not fed on a regular basis at all. If an animal does become ill, there is typically a high mortality rate due to many symptoms of illnesses or diseases not being recognized or being treated improperly. Proper medical care is typically nonexistent due to the lack of knowledge and steep price of veterinary care and medicines. These questionable tactics lead to sick animals suffering for a long period of time before they receive treatment, or even pass away.

There may be zoos that provide clean enclosures and adequate food, but do not meet the complex requirements for wild animals in captivity. There are a number of needs that need to be met from exercise to privacy. Any facility that keeps wild animals for the purpose of human entertainment and amusement is not helping the animal, but merely exploiting them. Roadside zoos are not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In the United States alone, less than 10% of animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are accredited by AZA.

Since there are so many of these roadside zoos, how does one differentiate a true facility from a roadside zoo? Sanctuaries are strictly that, a sanctuary, or place of refuge for animals who have been abused or neglected. AZA zoos have a breeding program in place called Species Survival Plans. These plans aid in conservation of animals whose populations are extremely low in the wild. We understand that it can be difficult to know the difference on your own, so Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has created a True Sanctuary Checklist to help you out! One of the most important things to know is that no true sanctuary will buy, sell, breed, sell or offer hands-on interaction with their animals. By using the questions on the True Sanctuary Checklist as guidelines, it makes learning about facilities and their true motives more straightforward. Researching before you go to any animal facility can make the biggest difference for these animals.

Survivors of the “Tiger King”

What Happened After The Show

April 15, 2020

The popular Netflix series “Tiger King” ended on a bit of a cliffhanger for the animals: what happened to them when Joe Maldonado-Passage (Joe Exotic) went to jail? The series filmed from 2014 to 2020. During that time, Joe continued to breed and sell cubs to buyers. Shortly before he went to jail, he sold his property and animals to Jeff Lowe. He sent some animals to a rescue in Colorado but the rest remained the property with Jeff.

Although we did not rescue any of Joe’s cats after his incarceration, we have rescued cats over the past few years that were bred by Joe then sold to someone else. While we do not always know who bred the cats we rescue (owners do not always offer that information up) some people will tell us or offer us records.

Currently, fourteen of our rescues were bred by Joe Exotic. All but five were born at his facility while they were making “Tiger King”. After breeding them, he sold them to other facilities and individuals who could not care for them for one reason or another. They then contacted Turpentine Creek to rescue their animals. Some cubs were sold when they were only a week old, and other cubs were sold when they were older, too old to be used legally for cub petting.

Joey, Lakota ti-liger, Khaleesi, Naula,Tommie, Floyd, Tigger, Luna, and Diesel (RIP) were all born at Joe’s between 2014 and 2017. They were then sold to private zoos, breeders, and individual owners. Shakira liger, Kiara, Jasmine, Detroit, and Styx were born and sold before “Tiger King” was filmed. 

These are only the animals that we actually have been told that they came from Joe.  We were not told where many of our animals were purchased from. These also are only our most recent rescues; many of our older animals and deceased animals were born at Joe’s then sold to other breeders, road-side zoos, and private owners and eventually required rescue by Turpentine Creek.

This does not mean that we will rescue from active breeding facilities. It is our policy to not take cubs from places like this. If we rescued cubs directly from breeders who are still “in the business”, we would sadly only be helping them by freeing extra finances and space that they can breed even more cubs. This is truly a double-edged sword; we do not want cubs to live in such dismal places, but ultimately, we would only be causing more suffering and contributing to the Big Cat Trade. On the other hand, if a breeding facility closes, we are able to step in. We have used our resources to shut down and rescue from breeding facilities in the past, such as our Colorado Project in 2016 and Mountainburg Rescue in 2012. 

Most of the “Tiger King” survivors are doing well. Diesel died only days after rescue due to a bloodborne disease he caught either from eating road kill or from ticks. He was barely hanging on when we rescued him but at least his last few days were in a warm dry environment with people who cared for him. The rest of our “Tiger King” tigers are thriving. Most have health issues due to inbreeding and malnutrition, but we manage their issues with a good diet and pain medications. These beautiful tigers will never have to worry about abuse again living the best lives possible with us.

Although they can never be free due to the irresponsible choices of humans, we do our best to let them be free at heart in spacious habitats filled with enrichment, good food, and plenty of space to roam. Help us care for the survivors of Joe Exotic and all the other animals that call our Refuge home by donating $10 today to represent the 10 survivors of Joe Exotic’s abuse that were rescued by Turpentine Creek.

NWA Gives Day Recap

NWA (& Beyond) Gave!

April 8, 2020

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say, “THANK YOU!,” to everyone who supported us on NWA Gives Day last Thursday, April 2! Because of your generous donations, personal fundraisers, and the amount of time you spent sharing our posts and spreading the word, we were able to raise $20,289 for our animal residents! That is even more than you donated last year when things were “normal!” All of your contributions will be supplementing what is typically brought in by visitors while we are closed to the public.

You conquered some epic challenges last Thursday. We know many of you are facing financial insecurity and general anxiety about the state of the world due to COVID-19. Despite that and the fact that our NWA Gives page was inaccessible most of the day combined other technology problems, you all showed up with a full heart for our animal residents! 

We wanted the day to be focused on thanking you for all the support you have already given us. Because of that, we tried to give you extra live video content and get more creative than ever with our giveaways. We hope you had a blast participating because we had so much fun interacting with you! 

Our big cats don’t know that anything is different with the world right now. They are carrying on the same as always and requiring the same food, enrichment, medication, and well-kept habitats they always have. Thanks to you, they are not missing any meals, they aren’t  living in pain from missed medication doses, and they get to continue frolicking in their habitats with their favorite toys. You are generously stepping up to stand between them and any disruption of the lives full of safety and peace they have grown used to. Every time our team fills a water dish or food bowl, every time they lay out Boomer Balls and boxes, every time they do a health examination on an animal, we know it all comes from you. 

Thank you again for standing with our animal residents in this time of sickness and false kings. Your kindness not only cares for those who call the Refuge home, but also brings insurmountable joy and hope to our team. Thank you for being a light.

Giving and Giving Back

NWA Gives Day Is Here!

April 2, 2020

We’ve been looking forward to this day for some time now. Today, April 2, is NWA Gives Day, always known for providing 12 hours of giving from 8 AM – 8 PM. This year, we have set a goal to raise $25,000, but things are going to look pretty different than they have in the past.

As most of you know, we are temporarily closed to the public for the first time in almost three decades. Spring and Summer are typically our busiest times of the year, with almost half of the money used to care for our animal residents coming from visitors during these months. All funds raised on NWA Gives Day will provide support to every feline, bear, and all those in between as we settle into what is likely to be our new normal for at least a little while longer.

However, we know everyone is facing a “new normal” right now. Many of you are scared; you may have lost a source of income or be concerned about your future ability to provide for yourselves and your family. We understand. That is why we want you to know that yes, on NWA Gives Day, we will be asking for donations, but no, that is not our primary focus. We want to use these 12 hours to celebrate you!

You have shown up for our animal residents during this trying time either monetarily or by sending words of support, sharing our social media posts, and tuning into our videos. Even though the world is…indescribable right now, you are still educating, still advocating, and still thinking about the exotic animals we have rescued. We know many of you are missing us right now; you had plans that have already been postponed, or you have an upcoming visit to the Refuge that you’re unsure you will get to go through with. From 8 AM – 8 PM on Thursday, April 2, we want to give you the chance to feel like you’re right here with us. We want you to forget about your troubles and fears, even just for a moment, and have fun.

During NWA Gives Day, we will be doing hourly giveaways on our social media platforms. No donation required to enter! We will also be filling your feed with extra live videos, games, posts to allow you to interact with other members of the Turpentine family, and some extra creative items that are stemming from our “new normal.” We will be asking for donations, but we want to stress the fact that we understand times are hard right now, and we don’t want anyone to choose our big cats over caring for themselves or their family. This is your pass not to feel pressure or guilt to give what you do not have.

If you feel like you can’t do anything but wish to do something, perhaps consider being a dollar donor. Last year, we raised countless dollars from people coming together to give a single dollar! Those donations contributed to us being the 3rd largest fundraiser during NWA Gives Day 2019! How many people choose not to give simply because they feel $1 (or $2, $3, $4, $5) doesn’t matter? That number adds up quickly!

You can also create a personal fundraiser on Facebook. This allows friends and loved ones to donate on your behalf. This link shows you how, but if you have any questions, please reach out to us!

For those able to give a little bit more but don’t know where to start, please consider donating the price of admission, $25. If you want to go beyond, every $100 provides two interns to care for our animal residents. Two hundred dollars is the cost to provide a dental examination for each TCWR animal resident.

You can give directly through the NWA Gives official website, which will qualify us for additional “prize money” from the NWA Gives team.

We also welcome donations through our website at, via Facebook, over-the-phone, and via the mail. Please be sure to specify on your check that the donation is for “NWA Gives Day 2020.”  

For more information on NWA Gives Day, please visit

We can’t wait to celebrate with you! Stay safe.